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What Is a Refrigerator Condenser?

Refrigerator condensers are the main operating components of a standard refrigerator's cooling system.
A refrigerator's condenser is part of the system that removes heat from its interior.
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  • Written By: B. Turner
  • Edited By: W. Everett
  • Last Modified Date: 07 April 2014
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A refrigerator condenser is one of the main operating components that make up the cooling system on a standard refrigerator. It consists of a series of copper tubes that overlap in a grid or coiling pattern. On most models, the condenser is located at the back of the unit, though some may be installed on the bottom or along one side of the unit. While its size can vary, it often covers at least half of the area of the refrigerator wall, and some even cover the entire wall of the unit.

Combined with the evaporator unit within the fridge, the condenser removes heat from inside the refrigerator and transfers it to the outside of the unit. A series of copper tubes or pipes connect the two devices, and liquid refrigerant passes through these tubes to travel from one to the other. As the refrigerant passes through the evaporator, it collects heat energy from within the refrigerator or freezer, leaving the inside of the unit cold enough for food storage. The extra heat energy warms the refrigerant, causing it to transform into a gaseous material. This gaseous refrigerant then travels down to the condenser.

As the refrigerant passes into the condenser, a fan blows air onto the copper tubes. This cools the refrigerant inside, and the excess heat energy is exhausted into the room. Once the heat leaves the refrigerant, it transforms back into a liquid, then travels back into the evaporator to repeat this cooling cycle.

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To maximize the operating life of a refrigerator, owners must perform routine maintenance tasks, which include cleaning the refrigerator condenser coils. By keeping these coils free of dirt and debris, owners will often find that the unit is less likely to break down. A clean unit is also able to operate more efficiently, which may result in lower utility costs.

Before attempting to clean the coils, users should unplug the unit or switch off the electrical breaker to reduce the risk of injury. The refrigerator should then be pulled away from the wall to allow access to the unit. Some coils are covered by a plate or panel, which typically slides or snaps off by hand. Once the condenser is exposed, users can clean the coils with a vacuum hose attachment or a stiff brush. It's important to work carefully during this task to avoid bending or damaging the tubes.

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Discuss this Article

anon325465
Post 4

@JimmyT: Neither, really. If it keeps working, you'll have colder air in front of the door and hotter air in the back or wherever the radiator/condenser is. But overall, the effects should mostly cancel each other out.

JimmyT
Post 3

The article says the refrigerator cools air on the inside and basically transfers the heat to the outside. What happens when you leave the door open? Would it make the room warmer or cooler?

Emilski
Post 2

@cardsfan27 - You're right. It seems appliance parts are never cheap.

I'm really glad I read this though, because I never knew you should clean the coils. My refrigerator is a few years old, so I'll have to add that to my summer cleaning list. I'd hate to have to shell out for a condenser just because I didn't take the time to maintain my fridge.

cardsfan27
Post 1

Very interesting. I just had my condenser replaced, and refrigerator parts are expensive! I guess it's worth it to keep my food cold.

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